10 reasons to visit Chislehurst, Kent
PUBLISHED: 13:53 03 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:56 03 October 2017
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
All the trademarks of a Kentish village but within touching distance of London, Chislehurst offers country walks, scenic parks, mysterious caves, great shopping and superb dining
1. Going underground
Chislehurst Caves are one of the area’s most popular visitor attractions and have to be seen to be believed. A labyrinth of man-made tunnels covering six hectares, and set up to 30 metres below the homes and woodland above, the caves were originally dug for chalk and flint in the 13th century. During their lifetime they have been used for many things, including munitions storage, mushroom farming, an air-raid shelter and a venue for legendary rock concerts. Today, entertaining guided tours lead visitors along the dark tunnels, exploring what was the ‘underground town’ during the Blitz. Visit www.chislehurst-caves.co.uk
2. Open space
Made up of 180 acres of woods, grassland, heathland and several ponds in and around the town, Chislehurst Commons are privately owned and maintained by a board of trustees. Home to rare species of plants as well as birds, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals, pedestrians enjoy unlimited right of access to the land. There are three main areas: by the parish church; around the cricket ground and Mill Place; and the largest section which starts at Camden Place. Used by dog walkers, runners, families and horse riders, the Commons are a much-loved part of Chislehurst, and host a number of popular annual events.
3. Wonderful walk
The Green Chain Walk is made up of 300 open spaces of woodland, commons, parks and recreation grounds linked by a 50-mile walking network and forming one of London’s most diverse official long distance walks. With Chislehurst as one starting point and Dulwich as the other, it is possible to walk all the way to the Thames riverside at Woolwich, Thamesmead or Erith. Autumn is a great time to visit the Green Chain as the woods and Commons start to change in colour.
For the routes visit www.greenchain.com
4. Ancient park
Scadbury Park is the grounds of an ancient manor first settled in around 1200 and owned by the de Scathbury and Walsingham families. Now a Local Nature Reserve, it’s set on the eastern edge of Chislehurst, overlooking the valley of the River Cray. The park has more than 300 acres of beautiful countryside to explore and forms part of an important wildlife corridor linking Jubliee Country Park through Petts Wood and Scadbury along the London Loop. There’s a circular nature trail and footpaths leading through ancient woodland and meadows, and the romantic ruins of the Manor House, mainly demolished in the 18th century, are still visible across the moat.
5. Famous clubhouse
Chislehurst Golf Club was founded in 1894 as an 18-hole course set in 70 acres of parkland. At its heart is its magnificent clubhouse, Camden Place. Originally built around 1717, it became home to a very famous family during the 1870s. It is where Napoleon III, deposed Emperor of France, his wife Empress Eugenie and their son, the Prince Imperial, lived after they fled from France. Napoleon was buried in Chislehurst’s St Mary’s Church, until his remains were moved to an abbey in Farnborough 15 years later. This golfing clubhouse with imperial connections is also available to hire for private functions and offers regular historic tours. Visit www.chislehurstgolfclub.co.uk and www.camden-place.co.uk
6. Exciting events
A friendly and buzzing community, it’s no surprise that Chislehurst celebrates several fun annual events. Some to look out for during the year include Chislehurst Rocks, a free music and fun festival each June, the Rotary Club’s Summer Fair held the same month on the Commons, open air cinema events on the Commons each July and a Christmas tree festival held at Chislehurst Methodist Church. Autumn sees the annual fireworks spectacular, set to light up the sky this year on 4 November at Chislehurst Recreation Ground.
7. Shopping and eating
Chislehurst has a huge selection of places to eat and drink. Some to consider include The Imperial Arms, Denny’s Seafood, Due Amici, Walnuts Café Bistro, Thaidine, Frogpool Manor Restaurant and Annabel’s II tea room. Spend the afternoon browsing Chislehurst’s impressive array of shops – with a few to look out for including Annabel’s gift shop, Wrattens, Fortuny, Champion Wines and New Creation Gallery for vintage and retro furniture.
8. St Nicholas Church
Chislehurst has several churches but one of the most popular with visitors is St Nicholas Church in the centre of the Commons. Parts date from the 15th century, although it is thought a church has been on this site for a thousand years. The Scadbury Chapel section was traditionally used by the Lords of the Manor of Scadbury, and many of them – including members of the Walsingham family who bought the manor in 1424 – were interred in the vaults beneath. The Walsingham tomb is noted for its intricately carved front panels. On the green outside the church is an interesting circular depression in the land which was used for cockfighting until 1834. Nicknamed ‘the cockpit’, it later became a centre for village activities and was the scene of the homecoming service for troops returning from the First World War.
9. Pretty parade
A fashionable row of shops built in the 1860s, Royal Parade sits proudly at the centre of the Commons. Having achieved royal status in 1876, as a tribute to Napoleon III who lived nearby, it remains an attractive and unique area for businesses, shops, cafés and restaurants. Home to designer boutiques, antiques emporiums and upmarket homeware stores, some to look out for include Yves Delorme bedding shop, Royal Parade Beauty Spa and The Royal Gallery. And there’s more to explore down the parade’s quaint little passageway, Donna Alexandra Mews.
10. Fit for a king
Only a 10-minute drive from Chislehurst is one of the most impressive stately homes in the care of English Heritage. Eltham Palace is part Art Deco showpiece and part Tudor medieval royal residence. The original palace was given to Edward II in 1305 by the archbishop of Durham and is famously where Henry VIII grew up. Rebuilt in the 1930s by millionaire Stephen Courtauld and his wife, the new palace was the height of modernist style, while still incorporating the original Great Hall.